On New Year’s Day, I drove myself to the hospital and entered the Emergency Department.
I put on the face mask provided and sanitized my hands. My blood pressure was 125/46, my heart beat was 110 beats per minute, my breathing was rapid and shallow, my chest was rattling, wheezy and painful especially when I coughed, my mouth was swollen and felt filled with sores and I had a fever. After the chest x-ray I was lead to a room where they placed a sign on the door that read “isolation”.
I had a lung infection complicated by asthma. Treatment consisted of placing a mask over my nose and mouth so I could breathe in ventolin and prednisone vapour. I lost count after 8 masks. They started to do the treatments back to back and then didn’t even take the mask off my face for a long period and just opened up the compartment and added more medicine. I was given oral prednisone, Tylenol and antibiotics. I was wrapped in warm blankets as the treatment made me shaky and the fever was causing chills. For the most part I had to stay seated upright. Then I was finally moved to a bed where I could at least extend out my legs but I was still raised to help my breathing and to keep me from coughing.
I stared at the isolation sign. My kids weren’t home when I left for the hospital. They had stayed at different friends’ places on New Year’s Eve. I texted one friend who was planning on popping by to visit me telling her that I was going to the hospital but my phone wasn’t charged so I left it in my car. Sadly, I know only one phone number (besides my own home and cell number) by heart and that is my husband’s cell. I called him because he was supposed to be picking up our youngest daughter from her friend’s place at 3:00 p.m. to go to a hockey game. It was 6:30 p.m. With my breathing still not under control I was told I was to be admitted but there were no beds. I would have to stay in a bed in the hallway. They would keep me in Emerg for as long as possible and they anticipated I would continue to need treatment for at least another 2 – 4 hours.
I called my husband. I am guessing the only reason he picked up is because the number that showed up displayed Saanich Peninsula Hospital instead of my number. I asked him if he could keep our youngest daughter over night. He asked where our oldest daughter was. I said I didn’t know because I have been in the hospital all day. He asked me what was wrong. I told him that it didn’t matter but at best I would be home tonight but there was a good possibility I would be admitted. He said that he had hockey in the morning and had appointments for work but he could keep our daughter, she could sleep while he went to hockey and then he could bring her home at 9:15 a.m. before he went to work.
Treatments continued because I was still so wheezy but regardless I had to focus on getting out. I had my period that was very heavy and because I was so dehydrated I hadn’t gone to the bathroom for 6 hours. I hadn’t expected to stay so had used my last tampon and pad that were in my purse and knew it was flowing heavily. I am sure if I had have asked the hospital they would have had at least a pad for me. I needed new clothes. I was wet and clammy from sweating. I could wear a hospital gown and mesh throw away underwear but I’d be in a bed in a hall. I needed a bath, I wanted my toothbrush, I knew I wouldn’t sleep, I knew I needed more to drink and I needed to let the dog out and feed the cats.
I was isolated. I had no way to contact anyone else short of asking for a phone book or asking a nurse to search home numbers for me on the internet. They were so busy I didn’t even ask for water or a pad or more blankets or more Kleenex when I dropped the box on the floor behind the bed and couldn’t get to it. I had no one with a key to my house who I felt I could ask to bring me the things I needed to stay and to look after my pets and to make sure my older daughter knew where I was and that she was okay.
So, at 10:00 p.m. with my breathing still only registering 175/500 as per the pulmonary blow test I was continuously administered (it did go up from next to nothing to 175 so there was improvement and I could feel that the swelling in my mouth was down and the pain in my chest diminished), I asked to leave. The doctor felt that the critical stage was over because the prednisone should be starting to kick in but they wanted me to call someone to drive me home. Again I wasn’t going to call anyone at 10:00 p.m. and wake them, bother them and inconvenience them. I didn’t even have phone numbers to do that. I had only paid for 3 hours of parking so I thought there was a good chance I’d have a ticket and would need to move my car or pay more and then I’d still have to come back and get it somehow. There was no way I was calling my husband. So I was released with a prescription for an antibiotic, prednisone and I was to use my ventolin puffer with a steroid puffer as often as I needed.
I drove myself home promising to come back by friend or ambulance if my breathing got worse. I first needed to stop at a gas station and get some electrolyte drinks. I knew I was so dehydrated. I was shaking so badly that I think the cashier must have thought I was a junkie. It took me forever to punch in the pin number for my debit card. I sat in my car struggling to get the drink open, the cap off to get to the tamper proof seal, put the cap back on, then take it off again because I couldn’t get it open but as soon as I started to drink I began reflecting on what I needed to do to ensure that I keep myself from isolation where I felt so helpless.